A home improvement company completes a project, part of their process is to seek feedback from the homeowner about how the project went. The company truly wants to know how they are doing – making sure they are doing a great job for their customers and looking for areas in which they could improve. Admirable. On the surface this seems like the right thing to do…and it is. Sending a survey to the customer is part of the project wrap-up checklist the project manager walks through. Put yourself in the project manager’s shoes. Ask yourself what would go through your mind if the project didn’t go particularly well. How aggressive would you be in getting that survey into the homeowner’s hands? And what if part of your compensation was tied to customer feedback? Now how hard would you work to get that homeowner to provide feedback? The incentive is for the feedback form to never get sent, to get “lost”, to get hidden somewhere, etc.
Now put yourself in the COO’s or CEO’s shoes. You see summaries of customer feedback. Scores look great. The feedback is all positive. Things must be going well out there. Customers are happy. Will you be surprised when this customer feedback doesn’t seem to match your operating and financial results? Customer don’t seem to be referring your company to their friends, co-workers, and neighbors. New project startups seem to be slowing to a trickle. Confusing, right? Customers love us, but yet that doesn’t seem to be resulting in more business. A management conundrum for sure.
When you know the various sides of a story it’s easy to see where the breakdown might be. But what if you are simply sitting in the COO’s or CEO’s chair? You’re relying on information that you think is reliable. In fact, it’s simply not. When you implement a customer feedback system it’s critical to look for these types of disincentives or areas that could lead to false, misleading, or incomplete information. Or if you have a process already in place you need to look at it critically and identify where problems might lie. Here are some ideas to make sure that your customer feedback is not being unduly influenced and truly produces the information you need..
Getting It Into The Right Hands
Make sure that someone who benefits (or could be damaged) by the data - the “real” data - is not in a position of control over data collection. At a minimum, make sure that there is an independent party involved in requesting customer input. Try to envision ways that survey distribution can be hijacked. Trust me. It happens.
Look over the surveys and (if possible) identify who’s responding. Ask yourself if this is a representative sample. Are some of your customers glaringly missing? Are surveys being completely filled out? See if there are holes in your data collection.
Get in There and Check Yourself
Think of how an accounting audit works. The auditor doesn’t look at every single transaction, every single accounting entry. They review a large enough sample of entries to ensure that the process of their creation and their accuracy are correct. They also compare the foundational documentation “underneath” the transaction(i.e. invoices, bills, etc.) to make sure that they data is being collected and recorded consistently, accurately, and effectively.
A variation of that process can be used when collecting customer feedback data. One way to do that is to periodically dive into a few random surveys. Look them over. Read the feedback. Perhaps even call a few customers to make sure that their survey responses truly match what they intended to say.
Don’t rely simply on written or electronic surveys. Do a few random interviews in person or by phone. For one thing, it allows you to spot if the customer survey feedback matches what you are hearing in person. If your surveys are telling you that your products are super, but your individual interviews are telling you something else, you might start to suspect that your feedback process is broken.
There are other reasons to do these interviews. For one, they allow you to collect richer, more in-depth information. Discussions can occur that give you information that a customer simply won’t take the time to write or type. It allows you to ask follow-up, probing questions.
Secondly, it shows customers in a tangible way that you value their input. You are investing significant time in asking their opinions. Who wouldn’t appreciate that?
As customer feedback continues to play a bigger and bigger part of our business strategies and planning, It becomes more and more important that we ensure the accuracy of the information being collected. It helps to think of it as an audit. Make sure the process is a sound one - and one that isn't unduly influenced by any biases or influences. Maintain control over the process. make sure it provides the accurate insight into how your business is doing and how customers perceive it. It will pay off in the end.
Please feel free to reach out and get in touch and let's explore how I can help you and your business succeed. No pressure. Just an informal discussion to explore some ideas. You can reach me at (713) 907-8429 or BCohen@IDiscoverConsulting.com I hope you are enjoying these blog posts If so, please help spread the word. Tell others about IDiscover Consulting Group and IDiscover Journal. Share these posts. Comment on them. I’d really love to hear your ideas!